Brain Gym: Simple Brain Gym® Exercises to Awaken the Brain for Learning Readiness
This article provides helpful Brain Gym® activities to activate learning in the brain. This article is meant to be an overview. Future articles will more thoroughly explain Brain Gym movements. Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
Do you find it interesting that we often complicate our child’s educational experience? It’s easy for us to get caught up in developing elaborate and grand ways to help them outperform other students or meet certain requirements, but is there a more simple solution?
Sometimes we want a “miracle” or “jaw dropping” technique to make our children read or complete difficult math problems, but it’s often the most simple and easy methods that can make the most difference in your child’s learning.
Dr. Paul Dennison, creator of “Educational Kinesiology,” Brain Gym® activities, agrees. As he worked with students early in his career, he found when students were stressed or inactive throughout the day, their learning ability “switched off.” If parts of the child’s brain become inactive, how can they learn? As he began integrating Educational Kinesiology, or learning through movement, into his every-day interactions with students, the child’s brain was “awakened” for higher learning.
In Smart Moves, Carla Hannaford says, “Brain Gym® facilitates each step of the process by waking up the mind/body system, and bringing it to learning readiness.”
In our society today, we often see the body and the mind as separate and that movement has nothing to do with learning. Many parents and teachers find physical activities “too simple” and “too good to be true” to actually make a difference in a child’s learning challenges or classroom experience. Hannaford says, “If a program is not hard, time-consuming and costly it appears to have less value. But, as we are able to step past our limited thinking, we are finding out that simple common-sense solutions often produce the most profound results.”
Brain Gym® – Targeting Areas of the Brain
Dennison created a series of Brain Gym® movements to directly target and stimulate the brain to help a child reach their academic potential. The idea behind Brain Gym® is to use physical movement to access different parts of the brain. Parents and teachers can use these types of movements to help their child or student based on behavior, comprehension or retention, organization, executive function, and communication.
To get a better overview of how Brain Gym® movements target each area of the brain, you can use the following breakdown as a guide to target certain areas for different types of learning.
Brain Gym® Movement Exercises
To help your child in each of these areas of development, here are the three simple Brain Gym® exercises listed above to activate your child’s mind for higher learning concepts. Each activity should be completed at the child’s pace and for as long as the child needs to ensure the exercise is effective. If you need a mat to complete any of these activities, click here.
We have already talked about how important it is for your child to cross the midline. Now, we need to encourage them to participate in activities that do just that. Cross crawls is one of the most important exercises you can do with your child. The purpose of this exercise is to improve communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain for higher level reasoning (critical thinking, problem solving, auditory, organization and more).
Have your child or student stand up straight and lift their left knee. Instruct them to put their right hand on their left knee, crossing the midline of body. After they put their right hand on their left knee, have the child switch by lifting the right knee and putting the left hand on the right knee. Movements should be done slow and accurate. Sometimes children tend to do these exercises too quickly and rush through them.
If the child or student can’t do this exercise or if they place their same hand on their same knee, this is a sign they cannot cross the midline of their body and you may need to help them place their hand on the opposite knee until they are able to do it on their own. Continue the exercise at least 10 times, at a minimum of three days a week.
Brain buttons are meant to stimulate blood flow to the brain and activate the Reticular Activating System (RAS), which is your child’s internal alarm clock that tells the brain it needs to be awake for learning. Its purpose is to awaken the child and help them to stay alert, especially if they are sluggish, fidgeting, or are prone to low-energy or problems with attention and focus.
Have your child or student stand up straight and place one hand over their navel (bellybutton). At the same time, have your child take their thumb and index finger and place the two fingers directly under their collar bone (clavicle). Both hands should be on the tummy and the collar bone at the same time. Have your child or student hold that position for at least 30 seconds or as long as it takes for the child to begin feeling re-energized. This exercise is especially good for children before taking a test or big exam.
Hook-Ups are specifically used for children or adults that have great amounts of stress, anxiety, meltdowns or sensory overload. It’s a great activity to calm the body and help your child control their breathing. You can complete this exercise standing (preferred), sitting or lying down on the ground.
If your child is standing, have them cross one foot over the other (legs always straight). Now, have your child stretch out their arms and cross them in front of their body. As they are crossed, have the palms of the right and left hands touch together and lock fingers.
Have your child loop the hands underneath the arms and pull the arms close to the chest (twisted into a pretzel).
Hold this position for 2 to 5 minutes or for as long as they need to calm the body.
Want More Exercises?
For more activities that may strengthen your child’s learning process, join our Video Membership.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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